Going away for university can be extremely nerve wracking.
It may be your first time away from home, without the comfort of your family, environment and routine. For those living with a chronic condition like IBD, going to university (whether you move away from home or not) can be especially difficult.
This article aims to answer some common questions and concerns about attending university while living with IBD, along with some practical tips of things to do to be in the best position possible to deal with any obstacles that come your way.
How will having IBD impact my university experience?
This depends on your specific circumstances and the severity of your disease activity. Having IBD doesn’t necessarily mean that your university experience is going to be better or worse than anyone else’s. It is completely possible that you will have a ‘normal’ university experience. It really comes down to how you manage your condition, take care of yourself, and set yourself up for success. There are both physical and emotional impacts that having IBD can have on you while in university. However, Universities tend to have resources that you can access to make your experience better. Continue this article for more information.
Will other students at my university have IBD?
Depending on the size of your university, it’s definitely possible that others at your school will also have IBD. It may not be something that is shared or spoken about by others, but it’s important to remember that having IBD does not make you an outcast. People live with a variety of different conditions, diseases and mental/physical health issues, and although they may not all look the same or be visible, it can be comforting to know that you are not alone in your experience. There may be groups or chat forums available for students living with IBD or other chronic conditions. It’s important to do your research using your computer – or by asking your university, to find these resources that may help you along in your journey.
Practical tips on living with IBD and attending university
Contact student services
Before you even show up at your new university, reach out to student services. Student services at your university can help direct you to the right resources, provide support to you and be a safe place for you to go to when you need help with anything relating to your student life.
2. Register with a GP
If your university is in a different city than where you were living, it is extremely important that you go find a new local GP to register with. Sometimes, it can take a couple of weeks to finalise registration with a new GP, so it’s best to do so as soon as you arrive, so that everything is set up for when you do need to see a doctor. This will give you the peace of mind that you have a doctor nearby that you can see at any time should you feel unwell or concerned about symptoms or your general health.
3. Make sure you can get your existing medications
If you are taking prescription medication regularly, make sure you reach out to your pharmacy or doctor to transfer those prescriptions to a pharmacy in your new town/city. This will make it easier for you to access your medications and avoid any last-minute issues later down the line. It’s not a great feeling to be down to one capsule and need more – so avoid this as best you can!
4. Download helpful apps
Technology can be your best friend at university! At Ampersand Health, we have an app called My IBD Care that was designed specifically for those living with IBD. The app offers things like symptom trackers, appointment/medication reminders and a ton of really engaging courses on topics such as wellbeing, sleep, medication adherence and more. Plus, we host regular (online!) community events that are free to join. These events offer you a place to meet others in the community and perhaps make some friends. Check out our upcoming events here.
5. Don’t feel pressure to attend events
The beginning of school also brings a bunch of events to get students involved, social and together. Remember that it’s okay to pick and choose which events you attend based on how you feel. Don’t worry about missing out just because you cannot attend all the events that are put on. There will be more events and opportunities to meet people and get involved throughout the year, prioritise yourself first!
6. Share with new friends
A new school can mean new friends. If you feel comfortable doing so, once you find your circle at university, consider sharing a bit about having IBD with them. This can help you feel more supported, comfortable and can help create closer friendships. Although you do not have to disclose your diagnosis with others, you may feel it helps you adjust to life at university better and reduces your anxiety or worries regarding social situations.
7. Connect with a support network
There are many different resources available to you that you can access if you are looking for additional support for your IBD. For example, if you are in the UK, Crohn’s and Colitis UK have different branches in different parts of the UK that you can connect with. Check out their website to learn more.
We really hope that this information helps you as you navigate live at university. Going into this new experience with confidence, by ensuring you have all your bases covered from having a GP, to a support network, to access to your medications, will help you significantly to have a smooth transition at school. Going to university with a chronic condition like IBD is not the easiest thing to do – and we hope that you feel confident and proud of yourself for taking this big step!
Have a question about the My IBD Care app?